I remember the exact second my childhood died.
A lot of people, unfortunately, can attribute this to some kind of great stress or trauma. One powerful second when it’s time to put childish things away, grow up, and be the kind of person who makes an impact in this world. The call to be an individual with meaning, who would one day go on to have an impressive collection of blue-rays and an underfunded 401k.
I am that individual.
This is my call.
It begins with my mother.
I remember a time when we were out shopping. The details of this trip were admittedly a little bit fuzzy, I might have been 4 or 5 at the time, but what I can remember stand out clearly in my mind to this very day.
It was a hot, sticky day. The kind that made you even regret going out there in the first place. The three of us had left early for the mall, and immediately I was asking my mom for some ice-cream, but the being the cold-hearted ice queen she is, I wasn’t having any luck. Seriously, Mom, that shit costs, what – a quarter? You can’t spend a quarter on your overheated little boy? Dying here.
‘Child services will hear about this’, I added mentally to my ever growing list.
So Jason and I were in the back seat, buckled tightly in the vinyl seats of her Chevy Lumina. He looked over and gave me a half-hearted smile, the kind of look that let me know he was on my side. Jason never really talked a lot at that age, but he always carried a certain kind of wisdom. He was two years older than me, but I always felt as if he were somehow wise. Worldly, even. A veritable Yoda amongst 7 year olds.
“I want a Push-Pop,” he muttered. Mom pretended not to notice, but I know she heard.
“Ma.” I yelled.
“Jason and I want ice cream.”
“It’s 10am, you can’t have ice cream now.”
“But we want it.”
“You’ll have to wait.”
“Ma, it’s so hot.”
“I rolled the windows down, we’ll be at the store soon.”
Roll down the windows? This lady is always rolling down the freaking windows. Rolling down the windows stopped being cool and refreshing the very second the air conditioner was invented. Get with it, lady, it’s 1993.
“What, Ryan?!” I was starting to get on her case. The tide was turning.
“We really want ice cream!” I kicked my legs on the back of the seat. I was never really one for a tantrum, but if it got the job done, who was I to complain?
“Sweetie, we can’t have ice cream now, you just had breakfast like an hour ago.” She replied in her best ‘ask me again and I’ll hit you’ kind of voice. Jason finally decided to speak up at this point.
“You’re really mean, Mom.”
She ignored this.
“You’re always so mean,” he echoed without reply. I stepped up at this point.
“Jason said you’re mean and he hates you.”
The car braked hard, sending the two leaning forward. Shit. The car started to drag over to the side of the road, finally coming to a stop in the emergency lane. She glared back, first at me, then Jason, her glaring eyes seeing right to the bottom of our very souls.
“Mom?” I tried to offer back to her, knowing I was screwed.
She got out of the car, the drivers door behind her and stormed to Jason’s side. I never thought I would get beat on the side of a highway, so I prepared for what might be one of the most painful and humiliating experiences in my young life. She opened the panel door, and I was suddenly thankful Jason was in my way. Maybe he would get the brunt of the attack. I braced myself and started to whimper.
“Jason?” Mom asked?
“What are you doing, Mom?” I ventured.
“Jason, step outside of this car.” She backed up to allow him space. He looked back at me nervously, and unbuckled his seatbelt. He stepped outside the car and stared up at my mother. This was epic – two titans, Jason the Wise and Mom the Ice Queen, about to square off once and for all.
“Let this be our final battle,” he said. The smackdown of the century was imminent. It never came. She took one last look towards Jason, then a hard look at me, adding, “If you behave better, we might get ice cream later.” She closed the panel-door shut, and instead of wailing on Jason, she went back to the driver’s side of the car.
Jason stared at me in bewilderment. Just what in the hell was going on here?
“Mom…” I asked nervously. The engine roared to life.
“MOM?!” I yelled this time as the car left park. Jason’s mouth was hanging open, he couldn’t believe what was going on here either.
She pulled away. Drove off without as much as a word, goodbye, or ‘here’s 5 bucks, kid – good luck getting home’. I could see Jason getting smaller and smaller in the distance.
She had kicked my imaginary friend out of the car, and abandoned him there on the side of the highway.
My childhood was over.